Directed by: Rob Cohen
Premise: A single mother (Jennifer Lopez) has a fling with her younger neighbor (Ryan Guzman) but when she tries to break if off he reacts violently.
What Works: The one bright spot in The Boy Next Door is the lead role, played by Jennifer Lopez. She has never been more than a competent actress but she does this part fairly well. Lopez has a high profile and is associated with Hollywood glamour but she is convincing as a school teacher. Her character is written in a way that’s intended to be holistic; she is vulnerable but she also stands up for herself. The character’s marriage is in shambles and she is being stalked but Lopez’s teacher is no shrinking violet and she has enough volition to be more than a victim.
What Doesn’t: The trailer for The Boy Next Door made the film look like a guilty pleasure but there’s not much that is pleasurable about this film. It is intended to be an erotic thriller in the mold of films of the 1980s and 90s like Fatal Attraction and Body Double but it is much more like something that would have played on late night Cinemax at that time. The Boy Next Door is stuck between two irreconcilable intentions. At its heart this is a trashy erotic thriller; in book form this would be the kind of paperback novel read on the beach and passed around between female friends. But because The Boy Next Door is the product of a major Hollywood studio and features a movie star in its lead role, the filmmakers put the brakes on the trashiness and try to class it up. The result is a disaster and The Boy Next Door is an erotic thriller that isn’t erotic nor is it very thrilling. The picture was directed by Rob Cohen, who has mostly made action pictures like the original The Fast and the Furious and xXx. There is nothing erotic or sensual about this movie. Cohen has no idea how to tease the audience or build up to a kiss or a sex scene. As a thriller, The Boy Next Door has no dramatic escalation. This woman has a one night fling with her neighbor, tries to break off the romance the next morning, and then he immediately begins acting like a psychopath. A movie like this requires a slow burn but like the mediocre action movies that he’s helmed, director Rob Cohen can only do things at two speeds: slow and hyperkinetic. The tension does not increase throughout the movie, which is partly due to bad direction but also the inevitable result of such an exceedingly stupid script. In an early attempt to woo Lopez’s character, the titular young man gives her a book as a present: a first edition (!) of Homer’s The Iliad which he found at a garage sale. That’s the level of competence of this script. Apparently no one in The Boy Next Door ever locks their doors or closes their blinds and characters are able to enter and exit homes and school without a key. At one point the young man fills the teacher’s classroom with intimate pictures of the two of them. We’re to believe that he printed off hundreds of these pictures, got into her locked classroom, and taped these papers all over the place. How he would do this—or that he would even bother to do this in the age of social media—is beyond credibility. At another moment the villain beats up a student so badly that he is expelled but apparently the school principal never bothers to call the police. These kinds of idiotic storytelling mistakes are so distracting because the movie is not engaging at all.
Bottom Line: The Boy Next Door is a stupid movie that’s not sexy enough to be an erotic thriller nor is it trashy enough to be any fun.
Episode: #528 (February 5, 2015)